It’s a dirty job and, sadly, business is booming.
Dean May of Calgary-based MayKen Hazmat Solutions restores former drug houses to move-in condition. The explosion of fentanyl use in Western Canada is keeping his team hopping.
“About eight years ago, we got into the marijuana grow-ops when they were really big …they are kind of petering out,” May told the Calgary Eyeopener this week.
“Now with fentanyl on the rise, we were contacted by some property owners. Is this something that we can deal with? We started doing our research and checking with local authorities on what was required.
“We worked really closed with Alberta Health Services on the first two or three of them that were ever found in Calgary, so that between us, we could develop protocol and procedures on how to deal with them.”
Fast forward eight years and the May team is travelling to places across Alberta and B.C., removing the hazard of drug houses from their communities.
“Our team goes in, we are double-suited up, we’re gloved-up, booted-up, taped-up, sealed-up,” he explained.
“We hepa vac all the available particulates out of the property. And now we’ve got our hands on a new product that is not just cleaning the fentanyl. Now we are actually neutralizing it and decontaminating it.”
B.C. fentanyl-related deaths jump 143%
Fentanyl deaths in Canada have increased drastically in recent years.
The B.C. Coroners Service said fentanyl has been detected in more than four out of five illicit drug overdose deaths in British Columbia between January and July 2017.
The agency says that out of the 876 drug overdose deaths that have occurred in the province in the first seven months of the year, 706 involved the opioid fentanyl. This is a 143 per cent increase over the number of fentanyl deaths occurring during the same period in 2016.
“In the majority of the deaths we’re investigating, we’re seeing fentanyl detected with other drugs. This presents huge challenges for those using illicit drugs, and the risk is high,” Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe told CBC News last month.
The majority of the deaths were concentrated in Vancouver, Victoria and Surrey.
Alberta deaths up 58%
In Alberta, 315 people died from apparent overdoses related to fentanyl between Jan. 1 and Aug. 12 of this year.
That’s an increase of 58 per cent over the same period in 2016 when 199 people died in the same circumstances.
Ontario announced Wednesday that an emergency task force is being set up to address the ongoing crisis.
The group will “provide government with the critical information that we need to tackle this public health emergency effectively and appropriately,” Health Minister Eric Hoskins said at Queen’s Park.
Meanwhile, Dean May’s team is currently cleaning up a home in Edmonton that was the base for Canada’s largest fentanyl bust in history.
“These properties are deemed unfit. They sit and nobody knows what to do with them. They are a hazard to the community. All of these houses, they have kids running around, playing in the neighbourhood,” May explained.
“If we can remove the hazard from the community and put the house back into the neighbourhood and make it liveable again, that is a really big part of it.”
May says it’s about providing closure.
“We are making the fentanyl inert. The hazard is gone, it is removed for ever and ever, amen.”
With files from the Calgary Eyeopener and CBC’s Andrea Janus.